Tuesday, August 7, 2012

We Have To Choose

Barabbas figures as a sort of alter ego of Jesus, who makes the same claim [as him] but understands it a completely different way. So the choice is between a Messiah who leads an armed struggle, promises freedom and a kingdom of one’s own, and this mysterious Jesus who proclaims that losing oneself is the way to life. Is it any wonder that the crowds prefer Barabbas?
Jesus of Nazareth 1, 41

Reflection – I have always found it interesting, to say the least, that the name Barabbas means in Aramaic ‘Son of the Father.’ But I must say I never understood the significance until Pope Benedict laid it out for me in the above passage.

The context of this passage is the temptations of Christ in the desert, specifically the temptation to power through the worship of Satan. The Pope has explained that the word used to describe Barabbas—ΛΗΣΤΗΣ (lestes)—in the context of the time meant a leader of the armed resistance to the Romans. So one Son of the Father beckons us on the road to freedom by power; the other on the road to freedom by suffering love.

Well, this can have a thousand different manifestations in our daily lives, right? Most of us reading this are not in a position of political oppression and tyranny. If you are, you have my prayers. But all of us have this same basic temptation, this same basic option. Is my life to be secured by my own efforts and mastery, or by the power of Christ and his love?

Am I going to achieve whatever it is I need to achieve today by manipulation, by bullying, by cajoling and conniving, or am I going to choose to love today? We all have some measure of strength, some degree of personal gifts, be they physical, intellectual, social, emotional. Are my gifts going to be at the service of building up the kingdom of Fr. Denis Lemieux, or the kingdom of God? This is the very basic decision we all have to make, here and now, on August 7, 2012. Jesus or Barabbas?

Of course, it is helpful to reflect that the kingdom of (insert your name here) is a pretty fragile and ultimately pathetic thing. It is vulnerable at every moment to some bigger kingdom conquering it, or to destruction from within. An illness, a calamitous loss, a breach in our defenses, and it’s all gone. No more kingdom for you!

The kingdom of heaven, on the other hand, endures forever, is eternally secured by our Father in heaven and by the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To live in that kingdom—to abandon all other concerns but to do the will of the Father and to love our brothers and sisters in that will—secures our life for eternity.

Of course, it is an invisible kingdom, one only apprehended by faith, and this is difficult for us, no doubt. So we have the visible immediate kingdom, in which we rule, but which can and indeed someday will be destroyed at any moment. And we have the eternally secure kingdom which is neither visible nor provides us with any immediate experience of mastery.

Well, it’s our choice. The crowd chose Barabbas, and so can we. Many do. Let’s try to choose Jesus and his kingdom, at least for today, OK? ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.’

Updated to add: After more than six months, suddenly this post is getting lots and lots of hits. The Internet, she is mysterious. Dear readers: to help me understand why all of the sudden this post is being widely read (apparently) could you leave a comment or e-mail me at fatherdenis@gmail.com to explain how you found this post?

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